Montoya ends P3, retains IndyCar points lead

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INDIANAPOLIS – Juan Pablo Montoya banked his first road course Firestone Fast Six appearance since his return to the Verizon IndyCar Series on Friday, and in Saturday’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, he followed it up with his third podium of the season.

More importantly, he retains the series points lead heading into the rest of the month of May. He has 171 points, with race winner Will Power on 166 and Helio Castroneves on 161.

Given Montoya’s weakness, relatively speaking, on road and street courses this year, he’s rather pleased about the fact he’s come through the opening five rounds on road and street courses leading the pack.

“It’s exciting, to be honest,” Montoya said. “My goal this year was not to lose that many points coming to Indy. I know our strong part of the season should be the ovals, you know what I mean, some of the road courses. I was looking forward to not be that far behind because I know once the ovals start I can make up some points.

“Having the points coming into Indy, it’s encouraging. We were fastest in the open test. The car felt really good, too. I’m pretty happy.”

Montoya started fourth and was lucky to avoid the first corner fracas off the start of the race.

He addressed one question about the run to Turn 1 and basically said “we should have knew this was coming” off a rolling start rather than a standing start, as it was last year.

“It’s the start of the race. Get over it. You know what I mean?” Montoya said. “You put us on the longest straight you can think of, you put a first-gear corner at the end of it, what do you think is going to happen? We’re not that smart (laughter).”

But he added of the day itself, “Yeah, it was good. I mean, we ran good all day. We pushed really hard.

“I got behind a little bit at the start. Behind but not behind. I was on the outside. There was really nowhere to go. (Scott) Dixon spun in front of me. I avoided that. I thought that was really good. It was really good I didn’t get tangled with anybody. But we lost three places.

“Made it tough because you’re behind. Our first pit stop, we had a problem with the right front, so we lost little bit of ground. I stayed behind Simon and Bourdais, made it a little tough. But after that, you know, the next one I passed them. Rahal was the one I didn’t manage to get. I thought we had the same pace.”

Montoya addressed traffic as well during the post-race presser, specifically Barber winner Josef Newgarden who through no fault of his own was stuck in-between Power and either or both of Graham Rahal and Montoya most of the race.

“Even if there was no rules, if you’re more than one lap down, you shouldn’t be getting in the way of the leaders.” Montoya said.

“The guy won last week. He should know better. If they did it to him last week, he lost the race because of that, he would have been crying and moaning.”

At least Montoya wasn’t, and at one point during the press conference noting Rahal’s own ire at Newgarden, he laughed off the fact he wasn’t the most frustrated man in the room.

“Glad somebody is more pissed off than me,” said the points leader.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.